Expat Focus: David, can you tell us a bit about your background before you became an expat?
David M Sutton-Rowe: I was born in 1953 in Catterick, North Yorkshire. My father was in the RAF and I went to school both in the UK and Germany. By the time I left school I could speak both English and German.
I enlisted in the British Army at the age of 16 and served for three years in the Royal Corps of Transport, I then changed tack and re-enlisted into the Royal Military Police. During my time in the army I was posted to countries all over the world: Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Germany, America and the UK to name but a few. After serving six years I left the army and retrained as a Domestic Appliance Service Engineer (Washing Machine Engineer). I did this for a further 20 years and had the opportunity to appear on my local radio station as an expert on consumer rights regarding domestic appliances.
I also wrote on a part time basis for my local newspaper - different articles on everyday life and the thoughts of an engineer. I met a lot of interesting people and enjoyed doing the research that it entailed.
When my second marriage failed and my wife left me with two daughters who were both under the age of two, I decided to move from Shropshire to be near my parents in Suffolk. There I met my third wife, who was also a single parent with two girls (aged 10 and 12). Life at that point was a little strained as the eldest of my wife's girls was autistic and that took a lot of coming to terms with.
My wife was a solicitor and worked for a company based in Colchester. She worked odd hours and I was at home all day, as a househusband. It was at this time that I thought about retraining as a Massage Therapist - a totally different way of life to that I had had up until this point, but I could work from home and look after the children as they left and came home from school.
Expat Focus: What prompted the move abroad?
David: When my wife's daughters left home and my children were aged 11 and 12 we decided to make a fresh start and move to Spain. We wanted to give my girls an opportunity to experience a different way of life and to learn a different language so that they could broaden their experience of the world around them.
Also, my wife and I could be together all day. I could operate my massage clinic from home and my wife could take up writing, which she had always wanted to do. We could do this in a relaxed atmosphere which would also help my wife's ME, something she had suffered from for the previous three years. The warmth and the relaxing lifestyle would help her and we could be at home bouncing ideas off each other. The girls would also be home with us each afternoon making for a much better home life.
Expat Focus: What were the main challenges you faced when you first moved to Spain? How did you overcome them?
David: Our main challenges when we first moved to Spain were the obvious ones! The language was the first, I had very little Spanish (I could speak German, which did not help too much, my wife could speak French which also did not help) so we had to employ a translator for the first month or so to sort out the forms and legal stuff for us, then we were very much on our own. My wife and I sorted the girls out with school and when that was done my wife and I started going to Spanish language classes. I managed two months of learning Spanish at the school then quit but my wife went to a local friend who is Spanish and is still taking lessons once a week. I now learn most of my Spanish by socialising with the locals and attending various events. I play pool every Wednesday evening with a couple of locals and I find that this is a much better way to learn the language.
The other challenges were getting the services changed to our names and dealing with Spain's infamous Telefonica, coming to terms with the Spanish way of living and understanding the attitude towards us as English expats. Moving into a small town was a very good experience and once the locals know that you are trying to communicate in their language they seem to slow down and help you. I don't know if that would happen back in the UK.
Expat Focus: What is a typical day in your life like?
David: That's a very interesting question. My wife and I are now on our own as all our children are back in the UK, doing their own thing, so we have a lot of time for ourselves. My wife spends nearly every waking hour on the computer writing and researching for her books - she has two awaiting publication and is working on her third. This keeps her busy and she tries to work a working day, starting around 10am and finishing around 3pm. That does not always work out, however, as she takes time off to go out with friends a couple of days a week!
I, on the other hand, work from 9am till 2pm, Monday to Friday, as a mobile therapist. I then spend the rest of the day glued to the computer training myself in the complicated ways of HTML! I have made a couple of internet sites and have been asked by some friends to make theirs as well. I have also started work on a forum, just to see how they work, but it's mainly for fun (although it keeps me busy). In the evenings my wife reads or watches TV. Me? I play multiplayer games, I'm hooked on Call of Duty 2 and 4 (first person shooters)!
Expat Focus: What are your plans for the future?
David: Now that our children have left home, are working and leading their own lives, my wife and I are looking for a place to enjoy our final years - somewhere where our income can last that little bit longer, somewhere where it's warm all the year round, somewhere where we can be happy and somewhere where we don’t have to work at all. Somewhere where, I have been promised, will be our last move.
That somewhere will be Brazil. My wife and I have been there a couple of times and have done a lot of research, not only over the internet but also in person. We have heard, like everyone else, about the high crime, but there is not as much as everyone thinks. We think we can find our ultimate heaven in the North East corner of Brazil; a move which will truly make us global expats.
Expat Focus: What does the word "home" mean to you? Where do you consider being "home" these days?
David: The word "home" to me means a place to go to bed, a place to wake up, a place to invite friends and family to, a place to leave in the mornings and to come back to in the evenings. I think that home is a place that you make while you're there, a place that can be anywhere you decide it to be. Any place could be your home, so long as you come and go from it. Now if you were to ask where does my heart consider home, I would have to answer anywhere in England - my birthplace, my family home.
Expat Focus: You're one of our longest serving moderators here at Expat Focus, what has that experience been like?
David: During our research of where to live while we were in the UK, I discovered Expat Focus. I didn't register an account, I was what is known as a "lurker", but I did get some useful information which helped in making up of our minds on moving to Spain. When we got to Spain, we had to wait 18 months for a telephone and ADSL to be installed, it was then I decided to join Expat Focus and write about the things I knew in getting established here in Spain. After a little while I was asked if I wanted to be a forum moderator. It didn't take me long to make up my mind, I looked upon it as a learning experience where I could help others moving to or living here in Spain and also learn new things myself.
I feel really good when I can help someone with something I have personal knowledge or experience of and I'm very happy to direct people to other sources of information if I can't assist directly. I have had some wonderful things said to me by members of the forums which makes the task of moderating feel very worthwhile. If I'm able to help anyone in the forums I will do so!
Expat Focus: If you had to give some advice to new forum members to help them with expat life in Spain, what would it be?
David: For a person wishing to move to Spain, I think that the best advice that I could give is to do your research, research, research, and when that is done learn at least a little Spanish before you come to Spain. If you want to live here then ask yourself what area, coastal or inland, as they are both very different places and both ask different things of an expat.
Expat Focus: What do you do to relax?
David: I think I partly covered that above, but to elaborate, in the weekday evenings, during the winter months, I play online games and on Wednesday evenings I go out with some local Spanish friends to play pool. During the summer my wife and I get out and about touring inland Spain and we are often invited to BBQs which is a great excuse for a few beers and a way of catching up on local events. We also have family over and go to the beaches and theme parks, and if they really want to see tourist Spain we take them to Benidorm for the day.
Expat Focus: David, many thanks for your time and on behalf of all the people you've helped in the forums, and all of those you go on to help in the future, a huge THANK YOU! Best of luck too with your own web site which anyone interested can find at http://www.vinalopotrader.co.nr